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Onnoghen: Appeal Court Withholds Judgment on Four Appeals

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Justice Walter Onnoghen has five pending appeals before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, but none of them was decided before he was convicted and removed from office by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Onnoghen filed the sixth appeal on Thursday to challenge his conviction by the CCT.

The appeals were filed within the three months the historic trial of the ex-CJN lasted.

One of the five pre-judgment appeals Onnoghen filed on March 29 to challenge the CCT’s decision to dismiss his no-case submission has not been heard as the defence and prosecution have yet to exchange briefs on it.

While four out of the six pending appeals were heard on February 27,  the Court of Appeal continues to withhold its judgments on them about seven weeks after the verdicts were reserved.

Speaking with our correspondent on Friday, one of the lawyers in Onnoghen’s legal team, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), confirmed that with the one filed on Thursday to challenge the conviction, there were six appeals relating to the trial at the Court of Appeal.

He said, “Before the judgment on Thursday, we had five appeals. But with the one filed yesterday (Thursday), we now have six appeals.

“Out of the six appeals, four have been heard, but judgments have not been delivered despite having been heard many weeks ago.”

Asked on Friday if the defence team had received the date for the judgments, Uche said, “no”.

Although the constitution gives a court a period not more than three months to deliver its judgment or ruling after the hearing of any application or a suit, Onnoghen’s legal team and aides have been expressing concerns about the delayed judgments of the Court of Appeal.

Onnoghen’s lead defence counsel in his trial at CCT, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had in The PUNCH’s earlier report expressed disappointment with the development when responding to our correspondent’s enquiry.

He said, “We are highly disappointed that the Court of Appeal has not delivered its judgments on the appeals by the CJN despite the far-reaching constitutional implications of the appeals.

“This is a case that affects the judiciary, but things have slowed down at the Court of Appeal.”

But the prosecuting counsel, Mr Aliyu Umar (SAN), who led the Federal Government’s team to oppose the appeals at the higher court, had also in The PUNCH’s report dismissed the concerns expressed by the defence in an interview with our correspondent.

“The Court of Appeal has three months within which to give judgments, and they are still within their right, as long as they don’t exceed three months,” Umar said.

One of  Onnoghen’s four appeals already heard by the Court of Appeal challenged the jurisdiction of the CCT to hear the non-declaration of assets charges instituted against him before the CCT.

Another appeal challenged the February 23 ex parte order which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to suspend him as the CJN  and to appoint Justice Tanko Muhammad as the acting CJN on February 25.

The third appeal challenged the CCT’s refusal to be bound by the orders made by the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court directing the tribunal to halt the CJN’s trial.

The fourth one asked the court to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him by the CCT on February 13.

On February 27, a three-man bench of the court led by Justice Steven Adah finally heard the four appeals and reserved judgments, after the cases had been previously adjourned on three occasions.

Justice Adah, who led Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Justice Peter Ige on the panel, said the date for the judgments would be communicated to the parties when the judgments are ready.

But seven weeks after no date for the judgment has been communicated.

The remaining two appeals yet to be heard are the ones challenging the March 28 ruling of the CCT, on Onnoghen’s no-case submission, and another challenging the judgment of the tribunal which convicted him on Thursday.

The three-man tribunal led by Danladi Umar after convicting Onnoghen, ordered his removal as the CJN and the Chairman of both the National Judicial and the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The tribunal banned him from holding any public officer for a period of 10 years.

The tribunal also ordered the forfeiture of the money in the five bank accounts which the defendant failed to declare as part of his assets in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

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Akeredolu Accuses El-Rufai of Masquerading As Leader, Exporting Banditry to South

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The Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, has berated his counterpart in Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, over the latter’s comment on anti-open grazing law.

El-Rufai had described the anti-open grazing laws being signed by some of the southern governors as unrealistic.

But Akeredolu, in a statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said such a statement should not have come from a leader.

In the statement titled, ‘Anti-open grazing: El-Rufai’s attack on southern governors devious, a hysteric ploy to externalise banditry’,  Akeredolu reiterated that the anti-open grazing law, especially in Ondo State, had come to stay, saying, “It shall be zealously guarded and conscionably deployed to protect all residents of Ondo State, notwithstanding their ethnic and religious biases.”

The statement read, “From all indications, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, if he was properly quoted and his views not misrepresented, is struggling hard to export banditry to the South under an expressed opinion that is laced with mischief.

“Perhaps, it is apt to state clearly that the likes of Governor El-Rufai are already in a hysteric ‘mode’ of escalating and indeed, externalising banditry, especially as the military onslaught against criminal elements and other terror variants suffices in the North.

“For emphasis, any such comment like that of the Kaduna Governor, if indeed he made that statement, merely seeks to encourage anarchy under the guise of resentment of a law by affected stakeholders.”

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Insecurity: Military Vows Not to Allow Foreigners Overrun Nigeria

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The Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Maj.-Gen. Christopher Musa, says the Nigerian military will not allow the Islamic States West African Province, a foreign terrorist group, to have strong footing in Nigeria

Musa stated this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday, in Maiduguri

He said that ISWAP terrorist group was a foreign terrorist organisation being sponsored by foreigners with some local collaborations, adding that the terrorists that were refusing to surrender belonged to ISWAP.

According to him, ISWAP is a foreign terrorist organisation that is funded by foreign individuals and probably some locals but mostly foreign and then they have foreign leadership which means they have not stake in Nigeria.

“It is very clear that ISWAP are foreigners coming to invade our country which we will never allow to happen.

“That is why I want to encourage those of them, especially those members that are with them to pull out and understand that they have no stake in what those guys are doing.

“They don’t wish the country well they don’t wish themselves well and we will never allow any foreigner step an inch on ground in Nigeria,” he said.

The theatre commander stated that the military had advised the governments on the need to adopt the system of involving the victims in dialogue on the handling of the surrendered terrorists.

He added that the government must ensure that the victims were not left out, saying that people should be assured that the proper processes would be followed without compromise.

According to him, some of the victims are military men, as the military has lost wonderful officers and soldiers.

“So, for us to even accept them has been very difficult but professionally we are meant to do that.

“Once we have those windows and they are working we are meant to ensure that we arrest them bring them in and then the nation will take its proper cause through constitution and that is what is going to happen.

“We want them to agree to understand fully that Operation Hadin Kai is just doing its own bit and the military operation is just one line of operation which is about 20 per cent while the remaining 80 per cent has to do with diplomacy, humanitarian, justice, rule of law and all these things.

“So, that is the stage we are in now,” he said.

Musa disclosed that the terrorists were being secured separately, adding that they were not going to be released just like that.

He said that the profiling of the surrendered terrorists was being carried out by the Defence Intelligence Agency, DSS and other security agencies.

According to him, everybody that has anything to do is also checking, we have also invited the National Identity Management Agency who are taking the profiles of everybody.

“They take the thumb and pictures and so, even after this, we know what they are doing, we know where they are and know where he goes to.

“This goes to show you that we are taking the proper procedure and nobody is going to be compromised,” he said.

(NAN)

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Jega, Utomi, Abdulfatai, Duke, Others Form New Political Party

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Ahead of the 2023 general elections prominent Nigerians have established a third force, Rescue Nigeria Project, RNP, to give Nigerians alternative platform to the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Founders of RNP include former governor of Kwara state, Ahmed Abdulfatai, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke,

Senator Lee Maeba, Usman Bugaje, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Amb. Nkoyo Toyo, Yomi Awoniyi, Dr. Rose Idi Danladi, Dr. Sadiq Gombe among others.

Delivering his keynote address, Abdulfatai lamented the state of the nation, noting that the high level of nepotism and lack of inclusiveness have given rise to agitations by different ethnic groups.

He recalled that in 2015, Nigerians embraced change, adding that today, “that change appears to be what we didn’t expect, as insecurity has taken over the nation.”

He said, “It is based on this that we decided to set up this Rescue Nigeria Project. We want to salvage this country and see how we can fix the mess. We want to set a template and key criteria leaders must have before they can attain any political position.

“Despite the great opportunities of the past, Nigeria has failed to live up to the dreams of its founding fathers and the hopes of successive generations of its citizens.

“Perhaps, at no other time have these failings become more apparent than in the past decade or so.

“In 2015, Nigerians overwhelmingly embraced the promise of change. These hopes have not only been dashed, but they have arguably turned out to be the worst political statements ever to  be made in this country. Nigeria today appears set to fulfill all the prophesies of doom.”

He further noted that “Unprecedented nepotism and political exclusion have left the country more divided than ever as evident in the various separatists agitation that are threatening the corporate existence of the country itself.”

Also speaking, Adeniran noted that there is disaster at hand, hence the move to rescue the nation.

He said: “You only rescue when there is disaster and when you fail to rescue during disaster, it is more dangerous.

“We have a disaster in our hands and we need to rescue the country. We need to look back and see how we get here. We know where Nigeria was before now. We know the task is not going to be easy, but we have to determine how to rescue the nation.”

In his opening remarks, the RNP national coordinator, Usman Bugaje, explained that the Rescue Nigeria Project was founded on the premise that the challenges bedeviling the country were largely derived from poor leadership.

Chiding the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government Bugaje said, “when you reduce the problems of this country to what they are, ultimately, it all comes to leadership.

“We have been unable to exit the leadership conundrum precisely because the leadership recruitment mechanism in our political parties is so flawed that, except for accidents, they are incapable of producing competent leaders with the requisite knowledge, discipline and commitment to make a difference. We are living with, or better still, groaning under the consequences of this folly.

“What this means is that any attempt to rescue this country from its troubles must first rescue it from the current leadership recruitment mechanism that seems to leverage on money and connection or ethnic sentiments and no premium on knowledge or competence.

“The challenge is how to introduce a set of criteria or better still re-calibrate the recruitment mechanism in our political parties to prioritize knowledge, competence and character. The deepening crises in the political parties is all the more reason this re-calibration is necessary.

“We must change the conversation about leadership. The first thing we should want to know about our President is not which part of country he or she comes from, rather how competent is he or she? What is the content of his policy document? What is his team made up of?

“We also seek to ensure a seismic shift from the politics of big men to the politics of big ideas. The empty politics of big men have not taken us anywhere but down the drain. We simply can’t continue this way.”

RNP’s vision  is “to reconcile and re-unite our country, win and deploy political power for the purpose of nation building and national development, achieving prosperity for all, and the protection of life and dignity of every Nigerian citizen.”

This is even as the mission is “to reconcile, re-unite, mobilize the nation to build a critical mass of citizens capable of driving real and effective transformation, to translate the mass movement into a strong power base within an inclusive and responsive political framework.”

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